Hit the Road Jac

I have a confession.  I enjoy road cycling as much if not more so than mountain biking.  I didn’t feel that way when we lived in South London where I endured and survived a 7 mile commute into central London everyday and weekend rides into Kent meant a 20 minute slog through South London’s Mean Streets.  I don’t cycle as far as I used to and all day epics are a thing of the past – I blame that dog – but a 30 mile ride can be just as worthwhile and rewarding.  The roads around here are so quiet that we can cycle for miles without seeing a car and there are very few roundabouts or traffic lights to break the rhythm.  Bala’s driving test centre is famous, and much in demand, as one of the few centres where a test doesn’t involve such things.  I took my driving test a couple of years ago in Bala, not having the need for a car when living in London.  The first time I negotiated a roundabout and dual carriageway behind a wheel was driving to Chester and back to visit Richard in hospital after he broke his hand.  But that’s another story.

The weather last week was great so we had no excuse not to get out on the bikes.  Sunday was a 32 mile ride (with 3000ft of climbing) over Bwlch y Groes, down to Lake Vyrnwy and back over Rhosygwalia.  Monday was another 30 mile ride through Llandderfel to the top of the Berwyn before turning round and heading back to Bala with a detour around Llyn Tegid.  We had planned to ride over the Berwyns to Llangynog and then Vyrnwy, Bwlch y Groes back to Bala but realised we would be late for our Welsh conversational class in Stori, or ‘siarad caci tarw yn Gymraeg’ as we like to call it, so we cut the ride short. Thursday is chaingang night, a 20 mile thrash starting and finishing at the Bryntirion.

Road Cycling North Wales

Road Cycling Snowdonia

Road cycling Berwyns

Awesome* Snowdon Adventure

*If I was the kind of “dude” who used such words, but it was thoroughly pleasant nevertheless.
Summit Snowdon

There is so much great riding to be had in North Wales that I tend to avoid the tourist honeypots, Snowdon in particular.  Putting my prejudices aside, I decided to join Tom from Carbon Monkey for a guided ride up Wales’ highest peak.  Driving to the start at Llanberis, I followed a bloke driving at 15mph down the pass videoing the spectacle on his phone as he went.  Prejudices restored.

What happened next, however, made me realise how silly I had been to shun this popular destination.  It’s a big mountain and there is plenty of room for everyone.  If it’s solitude you want then this isn’t the place for you (at least not at 1pm on a Saturday in April), but if you like a mix of grindy and techy climbing (with a little pushing) followed by some very flowy and then nadgery (with a hint of gnar) descending with brilliant views (if the cloud clears) and a great sense of achievement thrown in then it might be for you.

MTBs in the mist

We took the Llanberis path up to the summit, with a plan to come back down the Ranger’s path.  When it started to snow halfway up the plan changed and it became an out and back trip on the Llanberis path.  In truth I was a bit disappointed as I’m not normally a fan of retracing my tracks, but it was a good call from Tom given the weather and I shouldn’t have worried – the descent was brilliant.

The mountain was busy with lots of people walking and running.  I had feared that the non-cycling mountaineers might resent our presence but I needn’t have worried – there was a lot of good humour and encouragement all round, although quite often the cheery rambler was stood exactly on ‘my line’.  Nevermind, it all added to spice.  Hats off to my other riding companion, Graham, who opted to trial his way down the mountain, hopping from rock to rock.

Llanberis Path MTB

As we climbed towards the summit, the snow stopped falling and the skies cleared to reveal views in every direction.  I’ve walked and run up Snowdon quite a few times, but this was the first time I can remember actually having a view from the top – I just thought it was always cloudy up there.  It wasn’t a disappointment.
Glaslyn Snowdon
How wrong I was to have avoided this ride for so long. It has a bit of everything for the mountain biker, with many more options of routes than the one we did. It’s got an epic quality because it is a proper pointy mountain, but if the weather does turn truly nasty then you can be back eating an all-day breakfast in Llanberis within 20 minutes (perhaps even with a cheeky San Miguel), looking at photos of yourself on the summit. Nice.

Thanks to Tom from Carbon Monkey for his quietly reassuring guiding and for busting another of my prejudices (bred of bad experiences in earlier life) against shouty, ego-driven outdoor types.

Carbon Monkey Snowdon Llanberis Path

 

Destination Wales

MB Wales has made a film about mountain biking in Wales.  From trail centres, epic downhills, natural trails and family rides, it manages to convey in just over 5 minutes the incredible variety of riding to be enjoyed in Wales.  It would be rude not to share.

Semitrack

It’s been a very wet winter here.  I’m not complaining – we haven’t been flooded out of our home unlike a lot of people, but it has meant that the natural riding has been pretty much out of bounds.  But every now and again the sun shines brightly and the landscape is transformed.  And I’m reminded that summer is not that far away.

Walking the dog the other day, the sun came out and the shadow suddenly revealed all the sheep trails criss-crossing the hill.  I’ve suddenly discovered a new series of trails for when things are a bit drier.  This stuff is so narrow it’s not even singletrack – more semitrack, giving just enough to ride across the steep hillside.

semitrack

singletrack

A Snowdon Adventure

Ever fancied conquering the highest peak in England and Wales, by bike?

Snowdon Adventure

STOP PRESS Only two places left

Snowdon, as everyone knows, is our highest mountain and a magnet for hill walkers, climbers and mountain bikers.  Sometimes it is smothered in dense cloud or a blanket of deep snow.  At other times it is bathed in glorious sunshine revealing staggering, awe inspiring views across the National Park and North Wales.  A journey to it’s peak is a true adventure unlike anything other and one that a mountain biker will remember for a very long time.  But it is a proper mountain with terrain and weather to match and needs to be treated with respect.

We have teamed up with our friends at Carbon Monkey* to offer a guided ride to the summit and back.  Enjoy an epic adventure in the knowledge that you’ve got the backup and support of a local professional MTB guide to take you down the best lines, help out with any mechanicals, get the best photos and make sure you get to the top and back in one piece.

Here’s a rough edit from Carbon Monkey’s trip last October to give you a taster…

At the end of an epic day return to Ty Beic for a hot shower, enjoy a beer or two on your terrace (while gazing at the Berwyns, good riding there too) and then collapse into “a very large, very comfortable bed” (not our words).  We are giving you a late check out on Sunday – 12noon rather than 10am.  Spend the morning relaxing or squeeze in a cheeky ride, if you’ve still got the energy, before heading home to plan your next adventure.

The Snowdon Adventure takes place on Saturday 23 April.  Two nights accommodation for two at Ty Beic (22 and 23 April) and two places on Carbon Monkey’s ‘the Welsh Classic’ costs £250**.  There are only four places available so get in touch quickly to secure your place by completing the form below.

 

*Carbon-Monkey is a specialist MTB skills course provider running mountain bike courses in North Wales, the Lake District, Peak District, Scotland and on Cannock Chase.
** Please get in contact for longer stays and prices excluding the Snowdon trip for non cycling partners.

Snow Story

Bala LakeNorth Wales SnowWelsh winterMTB North Wales

Three inches of snow on top of a foot of mature welsh bog – think I have found the limits of the Geax Saguaro.

Up on the tops the wind is whipping the snow off the ridge against a bright blue sky.  A frighteningly sketchy descent (the brakes work but nothing’s gripping anything) and ten minutes later it’s like a summer’s day in the valley.

Apart from the half mile stretch of black ice on the road, which I can’t even walk on.

Home for a warm bath. Perfect.